Are you as a primary caregiver or parent accustomed to using TV as one of the main toys to keep your infant, toddler or school going child busy? Studies worldwide show that children on an average watch 30 hours of tv every week and most experts feel this is too much. While child TV programs are marketed as educational television shows, experts believe that TV watching can cause harm to babies and infants. Curious about the effects of watching too much tv on the brain development of your child?
• Effects of TV on kids:
o Brain stimulation and development. The first few years of your child are crucial for brain development. TV takes away active learning time and totally limits interactive learning. Having the TV on in the background is distracting and limits concentration.
o Excessive media use impacts attention spans. Children who are glued to the TV as babies have been found to have shorter attention spans due to the fast moving images on TV that cause over stimulation of your baby’s brain. On going to school they are unable to focus and exhibit impulsive behaviour.
o Slower language and social skills. Kids learn social and language skills not by listening to the TV but by communication with parents, family and care givers. Talking is not learnt by imitating cartoon characters rather repeating simplified adult speech.
• Child TV dos and don’ts:
o Don’t feed your kids in front of the TV. Eating while engrossed in the television screen, hampers your child’s ability to understand when they are full and thus causes overeating. This coupled with lack of exercise and movement is one of the main reasons for childhood obesity.
o Don’t watch advertisements. Commercials in child TV shows are normally promoting the very unhealthy foods you don’t want your kids to eat like salty snacks and sweets.
o Don’t expect your child to learn from television. TV time is passive time and kids need to be actively involved with real things in order to develop their muscles and minds. Researchers have found that infants and toddlers are much slower to imitate any task by watching it on screen rather than when they see the activity performed live. So think twice about any claims about educational tv for kids younger than 3.
o Do shut the TV when the show is over. Switching off the TV can lead to tears but leaving it on for just one more show leads to the next and you’ve let your kids watch more than just 1-2 hours of TV or video per day
o Do choose what you let your kids watch carefully. Ensure tv violence is a complete no, even when it’s a funny cartoon character hitting another, bouncing back because that’s not what happens in real life. What we think as harmless violence is actually harmful because kids cannot tell the difference between make believe and reality.
• How to keep your kids engaged without TV:
o You needn’t rush to the toy store and get lost in selecting from the plethora of toys available to keep your kids engaged. Read to them, play with them or ever just talk with them to develop language skills.
o Read our blogpost on the importance of educational toys, the role they play in your kid’s development and let your child’s imagination, creativity soar while learning.